The Boy Scout Shalako

A rainstorm tumbled down on 2,500 spectators in the football stadium of Western Colorado State College, as they watched the Ghost Dance. On the field young men wore flowing leather shirts and held rattles and sung with power.

The drums boomed, echoing the thunder. The rain did not budge the audience who sat entranced by the mystical dance, which a generation earlier had in part led to the gruesome and infamous massacre at Wounded Knee.

When the dance ended some looked again at their program to make sure they understood correctly. This was a performance not by Indian medicine men and their followers but by the Boy Scouts of La Junta, Colorado’s Explorer Post 2230.

Since the 1930s, this group of the Koshare Post—as it was also known, named after the Pueblo word for a sacred clown—had been performing the religious ceremonies of the Sioux, Kiowa, Ojibwe, Blackfoot, Navajo, Comanche, and Hopi. The boys from the local high school were recruited, and would spend up to three years perfecting their costumes. They covered their bodies in dark paint and donned black wigs. The project was financed by their public performances, which was considered by the 1950s to be “one of the most expensively costumed single group of dancers in the world,” with a wardrobe valued at more than $100,000. They performed at hundreds of venues, including at Madison Square Garden, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, and for a crowd of 10,000 at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater.

You can read the rest of this case here.

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